U.S. President Donald Trump said the chemical attack in Syria crossed “many, many lines” and called it an “affront to humanity.”
But the president declined to say how he would respond to the attack.
During a joint appearance Wednesday with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House, Trump said:
“I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me, big impact. That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I've been watching it, and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.”
Trump added that the attack had made him change his mind about Assad and what has been happening in war-torn Syria. He said the latest attack followed several others in recent weeks, bringing the conflict to “a whole different level.”
“And I will tell you it’s already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”
Trump’s comment came days after members of his administration said that removing Assad was not a U.S. “priority” but that it “will be decided by the Syrian people.”
Throughout the six-year war, the Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons against civilians.
Russia denied any role in the latest attack. A Russian spokesman blamed the incident on Syrian warplanes striking a warehouse or factory storing chemical weapons possessed by rebel forces.
Crossing the red line
Trump also blamed the Obama administration for the current situation in Syria, saying it should have taken action against the country years ago.
“The Obama administration had a great opportunity to solve this crisis a long time ago when he said the red line in the sand. And when he didn’t cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long ways – not only in Syria, but in many other parts of the world.”
Trump was speaking about Obama’s warning to Assad in 2012 – that a chemical attack would “cross a red line” and lead to a U.S. response. Obama did not follow through on this warning.
In 2013, however, Trump appealed to Obama not to attack Syria in a series of tweets.
No U.S. military action was taken after a gas attack later killed hundreds outside Damascus, Syria. Instead, Obama chose to support a Russian-backed agreement to remove Syria's chemical weapons supplies. Syrian chemical weapons attacks continued after the deal.
When asked whether the latest attack had crossed a red line of his own, Trump said it had crossed many.
“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies - babies, little babies - with a chemical gas that is so lethal – people were shocked to hear what gas it was – that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line.”
Possible action against Syria
When asked by a reporter about any possible action against Syria or its allies, Trump said, “I’m not saying I’m doing anything one way or the other, but I'm certainly not going to be telling you.”
Earlier in the day, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley urged the U.N. Security Council to take action following the chemical attack. She said it “bears all the hallmarks of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.” She added that the attack marked “a new low, even for the barbaric Assad regime.”
“There is an obvious truth here that must be spoken. The truth is that Assad, Russia, and Iran have no interest in peace. If Russia has the influence in Syria that it claims to have, we need to see them use it. We need to see them put an end to these horrific acts. How many more children have to die before Russia cares?”
Haley concluded by saying that when the U.N. “fails in its duty to act collectively,” there are times where states can be “compelled to take our own action.”
And North Korea
During his remarks, Trump also brought up the issue of North Korean missile tests and nuclear weapons development. This is expected to be a main issue discussed during Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping beginning Thursday in Florida.
“We have a big problem, we have somebody that is not doing the right thing, and that’s going to be my responsibility.”
While accepting that these issues are now clearly his responsibility, Trump again pointed the finger at the Obama administration for not making his job easier.
“The world is a mess. I inherited a mess. Whether it's the Middle East, whether it’s North Korea. Whether it’s so many other things, whether it’s in our country, horrible trade deals. I inherited a mess. We’re going to fix it.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from. Hai Do was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
challenge – n. difficult task or problem
affront – n. action or statement that insults or offends
attitude – n. the way a person thinks or feels about something
lethal – adj. deadly
hallmark - n. a quality, ability, etc., that is typical of a particular person or thing
barbaric – adj. very cruel
compel – v. convince or force someone to do something
conclude - v. to end (something) in a particular way or with a particular action
point the finger at (someone) - idiomatic expression. to blame or accuse someone
inherit – v. receive something passed on by someone else
flexible – adj. capable of bending or being influenced by something